Breaking The Silence To Empower Deaf Learners For Higher Education

Edward van Niekerk, a senior lecturer at Belgium Campus iTversity

Johannesburg 27 May 2024 The education of Deaf learners has long been veiled in silence – enforced not by nature, but by humanity itself. The history of prejudice against Deaf learners extends to the late 1980s, when sign language was finally permitted within Deaf schools.

A ban on sign language had been enforced since the 1880 World Conference on Education for the Deaf in Milan—a decision made without the presence or input of deaf individuals themselves. This decision was voluntary, but South Africa was one of the many countries to adopt it.

The journey towards inclusive education for Deaf learners is far from over. Sadly, the eventual ending of this linguistic apartheid in the 1980s did not bring about the improvement one might have expected due to an educational landscape constrained by a mistaken belief that deaf learners were capable only of so much.

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